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ESSAYS ON ISSUES
	

	 THE FEDERAL RESERVE BANK	
OF CHICAGO

DECEMBER 2014
	 NUMBER 329

Chicag­ Fed Letter
o
Understanding trends in state revenue sharing with
local governments in Michigan
by Martin Lavelle, business economist

Over the past few years, discretionary cutbacks in state revenue sharing, as well as
other related fiscal and economic factors, have led to budgetary challenges for local
governments across the country, including those in Michigan. To study this issue in depth,
the author looks at trends in revenue sharing between state and local governments in
Michigan since the early 2000s.

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This Chicago Fed Letter examines the
general role of state revenue sharing in
local governments’ budgets by focusing
on the case of Michigan. Many observers
have asserted that a major contributor
to the financial difficulties of local
governments in Michigan has been the
significant drop in revenue sharing funds
from the state government. To study
this assertion, I examine the roots of
the fiscal problems facing Michigan’s
local governments in recent years and
the ways in which these governments
have been dealing with diminished tax
revenue bases.

Michigan’s local governments began to
experience fiscal stress about a decade
ago, when the state economy started to
perform poorly. More recently, the financial conditions of many local governments
in Michigan continued to deteriorate
even as the state government saw surpluses following the Great Recession.
Consequently, multiple units of local
government—including the City of
Detroit, the Detroit Public Schools, and
the City of Flint—have been under the
authority of state-appointed emergency
managers (EMs), who have the task of
returning these public entities to fiscal
solvency. If an EM determines that fiscal
solvency cannot be regained through
cost-cutting, the selling of assets, and

negotiations with creditors, that EM
can ask for state approval to take the
public entity into bankruptcy proceedings, which is what happened with the
City of Detroit.1
Current trends

Revenue sharing programs can come
under stress when economic activity
slows, putting state budgets under
pressure, which may in turn lead to
decreases in revenue sharing with local
governments.2 To a large extent, declining revenue sharing in Michigan has
been due to the state’s weak economy.
Michigan suffered a one-state recession,
which began in late 2003 and lasted
until mid-2009, when the nation’s Great
Recession also concluded. During the
one-state recession, Michigan experienced decreases in its own-source revenues and population, which ultimately
resulted in declining state revenue sharing with local governments. As seen in
figure 1, since 2002, local governments
in Michigan have generally received
fewer revenue sharing funds from the
state with each passing year.
The long decline in state funds available
for revenue sharing with localities can
best be understood by examining indicators of Michigan’s economy. The 2010
U.S. Census revealed that Michigan was

1. Michigan’s state revenue sharing with local governments

2. Michigan’s state revenue sharing as share of state spending

millions of dollars
1,400

percent
70

1,200

60

1,000

50

800

40

600

30

400

20

200

10

0

2002 ’03 ’04 ’05 ’06 ’07 ’08 ’09 ’10 ’11 ’12 ’13 ’14 ’15
Statutory

0
1980 ’84

’88

’92

’96

2000

’04

’08

’12

Constitutional

Note: The fiscal year 2015 value is a State of Michigan estimate.
Sources: Fiscal years 2002–05 data from the Michigan House of Representatives,
House Fiscal Agency, available at www.house.mi.gov/hfa/PDF/GeneralGovernment/
EVIP_Memo.pdf; and fiscal years 2006–15 data from the State of Michigan, available
at www.michigan.gov/documents/ActualEstPayments_3018_7.pdf?20130801162626.

the only state to lose population during
the period 2000–10.3 The population
loss was brought on by a sharply declining job base and a jump in unemployment. Meanwhile, Michigan’s residential
real estate sector suffered a severe downturn. Michigan is not commonly identified with the mid-2000s housing price
bubble. However, Michigan’s drop in
housing market activity during that time
was comparable to what happened in
those places that were hardest hit by the
housing crisis. Today, new home construction in Michigan remains around
67% below its long-term trend—twice
the gap that exists between overall U.S.
new home construction and its long-term
trend.4 And with home prices having
decreased sharply statewide over the
2006–12 period,5 taxable home values are
down significantly. Amid all these difficulties, retail sales on an annual basis
were lower in 2009–10 than in 2002–08,
which meant that the state had fewer
sales tax collections—the primary basis
of the state’s revenue sharing program.6
As evident in figure 1, the state’s revenue sharing with local governments in
Michigan is composed of two parts: a
portion that is determined by the formula set forth in the state constitution
and a portion that is based on the formula set by the state statutory program
in place at the time. Since 2002, revenue sharing funds as mandated in the

Note: This figure displays state revenue sharing with local governments as a percentage
of state spending from only state revenue resources for fiscal years 1980–2013.
Sources: Annual reports titled “Statement of the proportion of total state spending from
state sources paid to units of local government (legal basis)” from the Library of Michigan.

state constitution have been fairly flat,
while such funds from the statutory
program have fallen sharply.
In Michigan, constitutionally mandated
state revenue sharing with local governments began with the passage of an
amendment to the state constitution in
1946;7 under article IX, section 10 of the
Michigan Constitution, the state government must share sales tax revenue
with local governments.8 In 1963, the
amendment was modified to apportion
15% of the 4% statewide sales tax revenue to local governments on a per capita basis.9 A locality’s population count
is determined by the U.S. Census Bureau
and adjusted by subtracting 50% of the
number of patients, wards, and convicts
confined to public-tax-supported institutions within its borders.10 Although
certain individual units of local government might have gotten fewer funds
from the state under this formulation
in recent years, the overall levels of
constitutionally mandated state revenue
sharing have stayed fairly consistent
over the past 13 years.
In contrast, there has been a clear trend
in falling statutory revenue sharing.
This pattern can be traced back to the
early part of the last decade, when the
State of Michigan started to face significant budgetary pressures. From then
on, the state addressed its own fiscal

problems partly through deep cuts to
the existing statutory revenue sharing
program. Over the period 1999–2010,
statutory revenue sharing amounts were
distributed according to a formula
that was based generally on taxable
home value per capita and population.11
Hence, those communities most adversely
affected by economic travails (i.e., those
that were already experiencing dramatic
home value declines and population
flight) tended to have their fiscal stress
magnified by the erosion of state revenue
sharing funds under this distribution
formula. Shortly after Governor Rick
Snyder took office in 2011, the Economic
Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP) became
Michigan’s statutory revenue sharing
program. Local governments that received revenue sharing funds through
the EVIP got significantly less than what
they would have under the previous
statutory revenue formula (e.g., in 2012
and 2013, local governments received a
combined $173.5 million less than they
would have).12 For fiscal year 2015, the
City, Village, and Township Revenue
Sharing (CVTRS) program has replaced
the EVIP.13 Like the EVIP, the CVTRS
program is likely to fall short of fully
restoring statutory revenue sharing
funds to levels before Michigan’s onestate recession (see figure 1). Given
these policy changes, it is easy to see
why state revenue sharing in Michigan

local governments’
own-source revenueraising abilities. More
B. Top five across United States
A. Seventh District
specifically, the deep
Vermont	66.2
Michigan	43.3
drop in Michigan
Arkansas	55.5
Wisconsin	39.6
home values greatly
New Mexico	
48.9
Indiana	36.7
stressed local budgets
Delaware	47.1
Iowa	31.3
because local governMichigan	43.3
Illinois	28.5
U.S.	33.1
ments depend so
highly on property
Note: The U.S. value is the total dollar amount in state revenue sharing divided by the total
dollar amount of local government budgets across all states.
taxes to fund their
Source: Author’s calculations based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 Annual
services. While local
Survey of State & Local Government Finances, available at http://www2.census.gov/govs/
local/11slsstab1a.xls.
own-source revenues
declined (along with
has fallen since the early 2000s. As shown revenue sharing funds from the state),
local governments were hamstrung in
in figure 2, state revenue sharing as a
raising new revenues themselves from
percentage of state spending from state
resources fell to 56.3% in 2013 from its their own communities. The 1978
Headlee Amendment to the Michigan
peak of 64.3% in 2002.
Constitution explicitly forbids the use
There is a wider context for understanding
of some alternative revenue sources for
the impact of Michigan’s declining state
local governments in Michigan that
revenue sharing with localities since the
are employed in other states: Local
early 2000s. In 1994, the state imposed
governments are limited in their local
a 2 percentage point increase in its sales
income tax options; they may not institax (from 4% to 6%) to help fund a
tute taxes such as sales or motor fuel
much-expanded local school aid system
taxes; and their use of the local prop(as mandated by Proposal A, which I
erty tax is tightly constrained.18 The
discuss in more detail later).14 And so,
vast majority of states place some limifor most of the 1990s and early 2000s,
tations on the local property tax, but
local governments in Michigan became
Michigan is among the very few with
more dependent on state revenue sharing
all four types of limitations (revenue,
than those in most other states—and this
levy, rate, and assessment limits).19 More
relatively high state dependence remains
specifically, local property and other
in place today. As seen in panel A of
local taxes may not be raised without
figure 3, among communities of states
local voter approval.20 If Michigan’s
in the Seventh Federal Reserve District,15
property tax revenue base is broadened,
local governments in Michigan are the
property tax rates must decrease. If
most reliant on state funding (with 43.3%
property values (excluding those for
of their budgets funded by the state);
new construction and improvements)
among all U.S. communities, Michigan
increase at a rate greater than inflalocalities rank fifth in this regard (see
tion, property tax rates must be adjustpanel B of figure 3). In fiscal year 2012,
ed in order to maintain the same gross
state revenue sharing with local governrevenue (changing strictly in line with
ments represented almost three-fifths
inflation alone).21 However, property
(nearly $15 billion) of all state spending
tax rates are allowed to drop at a rate
from state resources.16 Figure 2 shows
greater than the inflation rate.22
that the percentage of state resources
dedicated to intergovernmental revenue A related feature currently putting additional fiscal stress on local governments
sharing has fallen since the beginning
is the manner in which Michigan schools
of Michigan’s one-state recession, but
are funded. Michigan schools’ operating
has remained above its constitutional
expenditures are funded primarily
mandate (of 48.97%).17
through state tax revenues as a result
Local fiscal ability
of the passage of Proposal A in 1994.23
While this program shifts the responsiMichigan’s economic collapse during
bility for funding education (equitably
the past decade also directly impacted
3. Share of local government budgets from the state, 2010

across school districts) to the state, it also
exposes local education funding to any
budget difficulties the state may experience. After Michigan’s recession began
in 2003, state revenue sharing to local
school districts decreased. And despite
Michigan’s economic rebound since mid2009, local school districts remain fiscally
challenged, in part because of recent
spikes in teacher retirement costs.24
Conclusion

While economic downturns clearly put
pressure on state and local governments
alike, in Michigan’s case they have also
added volatility and uncertainty into the
revenue relationships between state and
local governments. Because of changes to
Michigan’s statutory revenue sharing
program and tax code, local government
officials have become increasingly uncertain that statutory revenue sharing will
reach pre-2003 levels. Local governments
in Michigan may be forced to adjust what
their services programs can deliver because of expected lower amounts of state
aid over the medium term and possibly
the long term. Meanwhile, Michigan
localities’ latitude to maintain their own
programs with their own revenue sources
is seemingly limited by law.
Charles L. Evans, President  Daniel G. Sullivan,
;
Executive Vice President and Director of Research;
Spencer Krane, Senior Vice President and Economic
Advisor ; David Marshall, Senior Vice President, financial
markets group  Daniel Aaronson, Vice President,
;
microeconomic policy research; Jonas D. M. Fisher,
Vice President, macroeconomic policy research; Richard
Heckinger,Vice President, markets team; Anna L.
Paulson, Vice President, finance team; William A. Testa,
Vice President, regional programs, and Economics Editor ;
Helen O’D. Koshy and Han Y. Choi, Editors  ;
Rita Molloy and Julia Baker, Production Editors 
;
Sheila A. Mangler, Editorial Assistant.
Chicago Fed Letter is published by the Economic
Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank
of Chicago. The views expressed are the authors’
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal
Reserve System.
© 2014 Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
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ISSN 0895-0164

	 For more details on Detroit’s bankruptcy
filing, see www.chicagofed.org/
webpages/publications/chicago_fed_
letter/2013/november_316.cfm.

Michigan’s statutory revenue sharing
formula was frozen in FY2001 because of
the recession back then. Over the period
FY2001–10, local governments’ statutory
revenue sharing payment was based on
their 2000 receipt of statutory revenue
sharing funds plus Michigan’s state
budget; see 24th slide of www.crcmich.
org/PUBLICAT/2010s/2012/EMU_
USRS_History_01-31-12.pdf.

1

	 Other research has found the tendency of
state governments to cut local government
aid during times of economic stress; see,
e.g., http://publius.oxfordjournals.org/
content/early/2013/11/17/publius.
pjt039.full (available by subscription).

2

	 See table 1 on p. 2 of www.census.gov/
prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-01.pdf.

3

	 Author’s calculations based on data from
the U.S. Census Bureau.

4

	Ibid.

5

	 See exhibit 3 on p. 8 of www.michigan.gov/
documents/treasury/
SalesUseTaxReport2012_432538_7.pdf.

6

	 See p. 9 of http://sites.udel.edu/ninadavid/
files/2013/09/POLICY-STUDIOCONSTITUTIONAL-REVENUESHARING-REPORT-FINAL-SEPT-2012.pdf.

7

	See www.legislature.mi.gov/
(S(e04gak55sqo4h455o5bbamvb))/
mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName
=mcl-Article-IX-10 .

8

	Ibid.

9

	See www.mi.gov/
treasury/0,1607,7-121-1751_2197-5658--,00.
html.

10

	For the fiscal year (FY) 1999 statutory
revenue sharing formula, see
www.michigan.gov/treasury/
0,4679,7-121-1751_2197-5658--,00.html .

11

	Author’s calculations based on data from
www.michigan.gov/documents/
ActualEstPayments_3018_7.
pdf?20130801162626.

12

	See www.plantemoran.com/perspectives/
articles/2014/Pages/evip-update-and-tifreimbursement-reporting-deadline.aspx
and www.michigan.gov/documents/
treasury/Detailed_Guidance_FY15_
CVT_468245_7.pdf.

13

Amendment has limited local revenue-raising
powers, it does set state revenue and spending
limits and prohibits the state from reducing
its share of aid to local governments below
a certain threshold or from shifting a tax
burden to them; see www.mackinac.org/5574.
	Pew Charitable Trusts, 2012, “The local
squeeze: Falling revenues and growing
demand for services challenge cities, counties,
and school districts,” report, Washington,
DC, June; and www.lincolninst.edu/
subcenters/significant-features-propertytax/Report_State_Summaries.aspx.

19

	See http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.
aspx?mcl-Article-IX-31.

20

	See p. 512 of http://ippsr.msu.edu/
publications/SOSSGrowth.pdf. Also, the
Headlee Amendment states that property
taxes cannot increase annually by more than
5% or the inflation rate, whichever is less;
see www.mml.org/resources/publications/
one_pagers/opp_headlee_override.pdf.

21

	See www.chicagofed.org/digital_assets/
publications/chicago_fed_letter/2004/
cfljune2004_203.pdf.

22

	The Seventh District comprises all of Iowa
and most of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
and Wisconsin.

23

14

15

	See www.crcmich.org/
PUBLICAT/2010s/2012/sbn2012-03.html.

16

	See note 5 on last page of www.michigan.gov/
documents/fy01_sec_30_report_34917_7.pdf.

17

	See http://crcmich.org/TaxOutline/
index.html and www.michigantownships.org/
revenue_sources.asp. While the Headlee

18

	See www.clinton-county.org/Departments/
Equalization/ProposalATaxableValue
DecliningRealEstate.aspx.
	For further details on Proposal A, see
www.michigan.gov/documents/
propa_3172_7.pdf.
	See www.freep.com/article/20140203/
NEWS06/302030053/
Snyder-education-funding-increaseMichigan.

24


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102